Plastic bag floating in the ocean with seaweed

IET challenges young entrepreneurs to solve plastic and toxic waste threat

Image credit: Dreamstime

The IET is calling for young entrepreneurs to enter a global challenge to develop a solution to help clean up the estimated 18 billion pounds of increasing plastic waste that enters our oceans each year.

In addition, approximately four trillion cigarette butts have made their way into the waters, leaching hundreds of toxic chemicals and adding to the biggest global threat of our generation.

Partnering with Greenpeace and GreenSeas Trust, the IET has set two very different challenges, with teams needing to solve one of them to be in with the chance of working with organisations that can make a real difference.

The Greenpeace challenge requires teams to think of ideas for reusable packaging designs or new approaches that enable supermarkets to dramatically reduce the need for packaging in the first place.

According to Greenpeace, our oceans are slowly turning into a “plastic soup” with part of the problem being single-use plastic. This means that huge amounts of plastic, which can take hundreds of years to break down, are entering our oceans.

GreenSeas wants teams to tackle the trillions of cigarettes currently in our waters, the number one item found on beach clean-ups. Teams are challenged to create a remotely controlled all-terrain machine that can move up and down the beach, picking up cigarette butts from the surface of the sand and collecting them in a chamber or hopper.

A large proportion of plastic in our oceans is also due to “improperly disposed of rubbish” and accidental propagation by winds, drains and floods, according to GreenSeas Trust.

Mike Carr, IET President, said: “This competition is all about giving young engineers a platform to highlight their innovations. By shining a light on a particular problem we’ve found that engineers think outside of the box and come up with innovative solutions.

“Previous winners of this challenge have gone on to see their innovations become a reality, so this is a great way to make a difference and solve a real-world challenge.”

The winning teams from both challenges will receive a £500 cash prize, trophy and an all-expenses-paid trip to attend the IET’s prestigious Innovation Awards ceremony in London where their winning solution will be revealed to the audience.

For more information, visit and follow the challenge on social media #IETSaveOurSeas. The closing date for entries is 14 March 2019.

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